BOOKS Naples: 150 Years of Jewish History

naplesBy Francesca Matalon

The story of the first 150 years of the Jewish Community of Naples is the focus of a new book, “La Comunità ebraica di Napoli 1864-2014: centocinquant’anni di storia,” (The Jewish Community of Naples 1864-2014: 150 years of history), curated by Giancarlo Lacerenza, director of the Center of Jewish Studies of Naple’s University L’Orientale. The volume is a catalogue made after two exhibitions held at the National Library and at the State Archives, including a selection of essays that describe the Jewish heritage in the city. This initiative was made possible by the cooperation of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, the Foundation for Jewish Cultural Heritage in Italy and the Jewish Community of Naples, together with the State Archives and the Ministry of Culture.

“The Jewish Community of Naples has a very ancient story, that dates back way beyond 1864”, said Lacerenza at a presentation of the volume held at the Naples’ National Library, in the same room that housed the exhibition last year. Jewish presence is connected with the Naples’ area since distant times, and one of its most important legacies is the many manuscripts and print books produced since this time. The two exhibits have gathered together family pictures and decorations from the synagogue, and mixed public documents with private ones, representing the strong roots of Neapolitan Jews with local society.

Next to the historical vicissitudes, in the catalogue merges many recent stories that the Jewish Community began to collect. This is a priority work according to Lacerenza: “It is necessary to urgently go through this path of research, he urged, in order to implement the recovery of a memory which if we do not pursue will be lost.” And UCEI Board Member Sandro Temin, also a member of the Jewish Community of Naples, added that “memory is the cornerstone of Jewish culture, and today we are pleased with our past. Nevertheless, he concluded, we are a living community and one we also want to move forward.”